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Hotelier, humanitarian dies

Hotel Laguna owner Claes Andersen, 63, had been battling cancer since last winter.

August 12, 2010|By Barbara Diamond, coastlinepilot@latimes.com

Hotel Laguna owner Claes Andersen succumbed Wednesday to the cancer he had been battling since last winter. He was 63.

Services for the noted hotelier and humanitarian will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 21 at Laguna Presbyterian Church.

A champion of the hospitality industry in town, Andersen and his wife, Georgia, have owned the historic hotel since March of 1985, five years after they met here and married.

Andersen was instrumental in the formation of the Hospitality Committee that split off from the Chamber of Commerce in a dispute about the value of promoting the hotels and restaurants of Laguna.

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The committee evolved into the Laguna Beach Visitors Bureau, which he helped found 25 years ago and served as president for the first two years of its existence and continued to advise.

"The gentleman brought vision and passion to the community with regard to tourism and hospitality," said Karyn Philippsen, president of the bureau for 21 years. "He had impeccable integrity in the presentation of wine and food."

Andersen was a board member of Chaine des Rotisseurs, an international gastronomic society and founded a society committee that helped train young chefs and sommeliers.

But the hotel was more than a place to eat and drink.

"Claes opened the hotel for the victims of any disasters in Laguna Beach," said Michelle Wheeler, a hotel employee for 10 years and general manager for 4 years.

Those disasters included the 1993 fire, in which the Andersen's lost their home, which included an impressive wine cellar.

He also was a big contributor to the Laguna Playhouse, SchoolPower and the Boys & Girls Club and a supporter of the Laguna Canyon Foundation and its "Keep it Green" campaign.

"Claes was much more than one of the leading businessmen in Laguna Beach," said former foundation President Michael Pinto. "He was also a visionary who loved his adopted community and was front and center when it came to helping the nonprofit community.

"As founder and president of the Laguna Canyon Foundation, I will always remember the many events Claes underwrote for our foundation, especially in the early days when we were just beginning.

"In addition to underwriting events, including the celebratory affair at which we toasted an agreement with the Irvine Co. that led to the preservation of our beloved Laguna Canyon, Claes also donated the use of a suite for the newly formed foundation.

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